As a febrile season of polls drew to a close today with vote on last 59 Lok Sabha seats, including Varanasi which is the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he was off to the cool climes of Kedarnath in the Himalayas for what is his much celebrated meditation by now in the caves of the famed shrine in Uttrakhand.
But before he flew to Himalayas to fall into silent meditation he raised expectations by appearing to address a Press conference on last Friday, May 17, at BJP headquarters in Delhi with his party point-man Amit Shah. The latter strangely took the lead at what was Modi’s first and last face-to-face interaction with BJP beat reporters during his first term in office.
Soon a show of great camaraderie and warmth between Modi and Shah followed at BJP’s newly built swanky party office on way to New Delhi railway station. Yet it ended up posing more questions than it could have been expected to answer.
And the biggest of the riddles left by the unusual event is why did the PM oblige Shah to do most of the talking through the Press conference instead of taking and fielding questions on his own?
Most prime time TV smart alecs who appeared on screens within hours of the PM’s event agreed that Modi was using Shah as a virtual “shield” and, thus, deflected even the questions directly addressed to the Prime Minister to the BJP president sitting next to him.
This in turn brought another question to the minds of most people. And it was why should the PM need a shield? Or why should he draw a line of defence to stand behind while putting Amit Shah on the front?
There can be no easy, nor precise or definite answers to this. Nor anything of sorts could come forth from political pundits. Yet, what appears to be more plausible is an attempt to manage risk on the part of the country’s top two men through not only the countdown to the D-Day, or May 23, when the poll results are to be out but possibly also through the days after that as a new Government takes shape.
Consider the palpable fears emanating due to Chief Election Commissioner’s consistent willingness to be virtually at the bidding command of the Government of the day on the one hand and the tall claims of surpassing the tally or mark of 300 Lok Sabha seats by the BJP being made by both Modi and Shah on the other.
Thus, under the given circumstances it, indeed, suits Prime Minister to distance himself and the Government led by him from the poll process and also its final outcome, for which Election Commission holds the key, and putting the party and its chief in the front to face not only the verdict but also questions in case any of them arise about its veracity.
This is what Modi apparently tried to do through his Friday’s Press conference while excusing him from answering quite a few questions by saying that he was only a soldier of the party and, thus, he could not speak before the BJP president. The Prime Minister simply tried to cast the party chief in the role of a virtual General in whose presence soldiers were supposed to avoid saying much if not to keep absolutely quiet.
So relying on party and its chief so heavily before May 23 can only be a tactics rather than being an issue of protocol as Prime Minister tried to make it or look like.
This is more so when the actual reality is that there is hardly any party left beyond Modi and Shah, Yet, the two call themselves as its worthy soldiers as and when this can suit them or as per the occasion.
Indeed, the BJP is a pale shadow of its past, or since the time when it was not towered, overshadowed and dwarfed by the two wizards who took over it one after the other five years ago.